Monday, August 19, 2013

Oh the uncertainty of it all

     I saw my oncologist today to get the test results from the CT scan and ultrasound.  The results were surprising.  Although there is a lymph node that is enlarged on the left side, there are actually several on the right side!  I can't feel them like I can the one on the left but apparently they are there.  Is it the cancer coming back to take the breast it was previously denied?  Or is it another type of cancer?  Or maybe nothing?  Luckily my tumor markers are not elevated.  For those of you unfamiliar with cancer terminology, tumor markers are substances that are produced by cancer or by other cells of the body in response to cancer or certain benign (noncancerous) conditions. Most tumor markers are made by normal cells as well as by cancer cells; however, they are produced at much higher levels in cancerous conditions.  So what does this mean?  They don't know!!!  It could be a simple case of a viral infection causing inflammation of the nodes or it can be a recurrence.  I am officially now in "monitoring status" meaning we keep an eye on them and hope they do not grow!  I have to see my oncologist again in a month for more poking and prodding.
     Hannah has taken a positive position on this as it has not been termed a recurrence.  I suppose that is the best way to treat it but I hate the uncertainty.  I don't know how to deal with uncertainty.  How do I "fight" this?  I knew how to fight the last lump - remove it and pump my body full of drugs meant to kill it.  But what do I do about this situation?  I suppose the answer is to go on living and doing all the things I have been doing, except maybe not so many tequila shots?  I hate living with the general feeling of uncertainty about what tomorrow will bring. Having cancer makes me more aware of uncertainties because I never expected to get cancer in the first damn place. I have found myself thinking, "If I can get cancer, then what the hell else can happen?" I try not to let this feeling of uncertainty take over my daily life but often it does.  I really don't like going to that dark place but sometimes I can't help it.
     Before I got cancer, I was under the illusion that I had things under control. Oh sure, there were job issues and bills and all that, but all in all, I was coping pretty well. And then that sense of control is shattered, and I don't think it ever really comes back. It is replaced by uncertainty in almost everything. How long will I live? Did the chemo work? What will my next scans show? Will it spread? Will it come back? It seems that almost nothing is certain, except that my life has been torn to shreds and tossed in the air like confetti.  I think most cancer patients don't ever think it's really gone. It's just hiding, waiting to jump out and scare us when we least expect it. Will I be able to resume my old life? To rebuild my battered body? I don't know.  But I do know this disease has changed me dramatically in so many ways. I am a different person. Hopefully a better person.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I made it to 50!

Whew!  I made it to my 50th birthday.  A few years back I wasn't sure I would.  I celebrated my birthday by spending the weekend in my hometown of Pontiac, IL with one of my best friends - Sharon.  We attended a birthday party thrown by our high school friend, Dan, who was also turning 50.  It was fun riding around town in Sharon's convertible, checking out the old haunts like Mario's Pizza and Bob & Ringo's.  It was the perfect way to celebrate.  I had considered having a big blowout for my 50th but when I thought about it I decided that I prefered something more low key.  Once you are diagnosed with cancer, things you once considered important (like big birthday bashes) are no longer so important.  

I welcome my birthday--the day I get to add another candle to the cake--not only for my years on this earth, but also for my years as a cancer survivor.  After all, the only way to avoid growing old is dying young. I am trying to avoid joining that club!  Lets face it, we've all survived something: cancer, a bad break-up, the death of a loved one, a failed career and we're still here on this ridiculously fabulous planet for yet another year.  Isn't that a miracle?   Maybe one day, someone will have a cure for cancer and cellulite. Wouldn't that be great? Talk about having your birthday cake and eating it, too! 
Now don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm doing back flips about getting:
A. Crow's Feet
B. A Wrinkled Neck
C. Chicken Wings
D. Saggy Boobs
E. Grey Hair

F. All of the Above

But I do intend to get so old that I do end up wrinkled and gray and stooped.  I'll whack people with my cane and wander around my nursing home yelling, "Move bitches" and "Bring the 'Paign"!  Who would like to join me there?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water

     Just as I try to forget about cancer and get on with life, I get slapped up side the head with a vicious reminder.  I found a small lump in my left collar bone area about 10 days ago.  That means an ultrasound, a CT scan and a biopsy.  Now, it could be absolutely nothing, but it has to be checked out.  Seems once a cancer patent, always a cancer patient.  I won't repeat what I exclaimed when I found the lump as it was wholly inappropriate and I'm sure I made some of the words up!  I refuse to go into "freak out" mode until we know exactly what we are dealing with.  I learned that the collarbone area near the throat is a very common area for recurrence, which may be why my oncologist had a worried look on his face.
     As my four year cancerversary approaches, I was feeling pretty smug.  I had kicked cancer's ass and really hadn't given it much thought lately.  But I think cancer hates to be ignored and decided that I wasn't taking it seriously enough.  So it had to show me who is in charge.  I've always said that I don't think I give enough in the fight against cancer, so maybe it is time to rethink that.  As I ponder how I ended up here, I now know that real life brings the unplanned and the unthinkable.  Real life challenges you to grow, to become more than you were. Real life is not safe.  It certainly hasn’t been boring, either.
     My birthday will soon be here and I plan to celebrate with some high school friends.  Back in high school I never imagined the trials and traumas that life would bring.  Back then, I never could have imagined the me I have become by struggling through those things.  I never knew I could take so many hits and keep getting back up.  There is something appealing about a simple, boring life but alas, it is not to be.  I will soon know if the fight is on again.